Dealing with Doubt

DOUBT.  Every person has struggled with it at some time or another, whether they be an atheist, agnostic or religious.  The atheist questions, “What if I’m wrong and there really is a God?”  The Christian questions, “What if I’m wrong and Christianity is not true?”  The agnostic (who maintains that no one can know whether God exists or not) lives in a perpetual state of doubt.

Now you might be one of those individuals who has never doubted God’s existence or doubted that you are truly saved.  Good for you.  But you may have doubted other things such as election and free will or whether God listens to your prayers.  Or perhaps, during a particularly difficult season in your life you have doubted God’s goodness.

That brings us to one of the most famous doubters in the bible: Thomas.  His story is told in John chapter 20.  Jesus has risen from the dead and appeared to a number of his followers.  The only one not to have seen him is Thomas.  When they tell him about it, he just won’t buy it.  Maybe he thinks they have imagined it or they saw someone who looked just like Jesus.  What ever his reasons, he’s not swallowing any of it.  Finally, in exasperation he says,

“If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25)

Now it is very easy from the vantage point we have, to rag on this guy for his scepticism and unbelief.  But we need to be careful that we don’t sell Thomas short.  There are two other places in John’s gospel where Thomas appears.  And what we learn about him may just surprise you.

Scene 1: John 11

Jesus is out beyond the Jordan River with His disciples – preaching and baptizing.  He then gets word that his friend Lazarus is sick – very sick.  After two days Jesus says, “Let’s go to Judea.”  Well the disciples aren’t too keen on this because the last time Jesus was there the Jews had tried to stone Him.  Jesus says, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.”  They reply, “That’s great, if he’s asleep, he’s going to get well.”  Jesus replies (in a manner of words), “No you idiots, he’s dead.  He’s meant to die so you can see the power of God at work.  So, let’s go to him.”  Thomas, in response to this says, “Let’s go too so that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16)

Ok, so the disciples really don’t get it.  But what I want you to see here is Thomas’ devotion to Jesus.  He thinks that Jesus is going to join Lazarus in death.  And he is willing to go and risk his life and follow him.  He even challenges the others to come along.  So that’s our first portrait of Thomas: devoted, committed and willing to follow Jesus to death.

Scene 2: John 14

Jesus has just told the disciples that He’s leaving them.  He is returning to his Father.  Jesus says, “You know the way where I’m going” (verse 4).  Thomas asks, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, how do we know the way?”  That’s the question everyone else is thinking but don’t want to ask in case they look stupid.  Thomas takes the initiative.  He doesn’t mind asking the hard questions.  He’s not afraid to speak up.  That’s the Thomas we’re looking at here – devoted, committed, and unafraid to speak up and ask the hard questions.

The fact that Thomas has serious doubts that Jesus has come back to life – physically and bodily, doesn’t change any of that.  It doesn’t make him a failure.  It doesn’t mean he is spiritually weak, just like you having doubts about something doesn’t make you spiritually weak.

A week goes by, and the disciples are together again, behind locked doors.  Jesus appears to the disciples the same way he had before, out of nowhere.  This time Thomas is there.  Can you imagine his expression, when he sees Jesus with his own eyes?  Jesus heads straight to Thomas and says to him,

“Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” (John 20:27)

This is how Jesus often deals with our ignorance and our stubbornness isn’t it?  He’s gentle and accommodating.  He knows our faults; He knows what we are made of; and whatever the doubts, whatever the uncertainty Jesus accepts it, and meets us in the middle of it.  Our Saviour is big-hearted.  He loves Thomas and he wants to see him come to a fullness of faith and belief.  “Thomas, come now; don’t come unbelievingly. Come with faith; come with trust to Me.”

Take heart Christian, if this big-hearted Saviour was patient with Thomas, then he’ll be patient with us too.  He says to us,

“Come to Me.  Come with your questions.  Come to Me with your doubts. Come to me with your concerns.  Come to me even with your demands, and I will be able to answer all of them.”

There’s a wonderful verse in a hymn written by William Bright,

How oft, O Lord, Thy face hath shone
On doubting souls whose wills were true!
Thou Christ of Cephas and of John,
Thou art the Christ of Thomas, too.

Thomas’ response is just wonderful.  He says, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Thomas declares that Jesus is the God.  To look into the face of Jesus is to look into the face of God – the Almighty – the one true God.  For Thomas – there’s no doubt.  Only belief.  God has come to Him.  Whatever doubts he may have had Jesus has responded to them.  God’s truth has been revealed.  He sees now with his own eyes: Jesus is the risen Lord – victorious over sin and death.  Jesus responds in verse 29,

“Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)

What an astounding statement from our Lord here.  He is looking forward, past Thomas, past the disciples to those who will believe Him in the future.  He is saying, “How blessed will be those not because they have seen me, not because they have prodded and touched me, but because they trust in the infallible, inerrant Word of God.  How blessed will be those people!”

Conclusion

And so, bringing all this to a close, it is not wrong or sinful for you to doubt.  The question is, what will you do with your doubt?  Will you push forward to faith or will you slip backwards to unbelief?  Because you can’t stay where you are.  To linger in doubt is dangerous.

Faith is sometimes difficult.  I’m the first to admit it.  It’s not always easy.  And for faith to be genuine, it will always have questions and doubts accompanying it, otherwise it isn’t real faith.

It’s not always an easy road to walk – Jesus never promised us that.  But he does promise to be with us in the middle of it.  He will meet us in our doubts.  And when he comes, he won’t come to scold, he won’t come to rebuke, but to gently and patiently work with us so that we progress through to faith.

Note: This post was based on a sermon I preached from the Gospel of John.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.

 

 

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When you don’t desire God

Every Christian has experienced it at one time or another.  Your heart feels cold, you have no desire to pray and you feel very distant from God.  You know it’s not good.  You know you should do something about it.  But you lack the will and motivation to do so.  You open your bible, looking and hoping for some spiritual light – some new truth to stimulate the mind and warm the affections, but nothing comes.  You put on some worship music, hoping that might change things.  But alas, it doesn’t.

Now there might be a number of causes for this malady: doubt, discouragement,  unconfessed sin, over-tiredness, or an attack from the enemy (who will do anything he can to keep you from seeking God).  Sometimes we just don’t know what the cause is.  It just IS.  The answer however, isn’t to try to get ourselves in a spiritually fit state to get back in touch with God.  That will never happen.  God is the only one who can get us back in touch with God.  Spiritual work can never be attained by human or fleshly means.  We should know that (if our theology is right).  But we forget.

So when I woke up the other morning and found myself struggling to pray, I knew the answer was not going to be found in myself, but in God.  I got down on my knees and went to a Psalm I frequently visit – Psalm 62.  The middle section goes like this:

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before him.
God is our refuge.                               Selah

I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time explaining what it means to pour out your heart.

Commentators often use the example of Hannah pouring out her heart to God in 1 Samuel 1:13-15.  The word used there is the Hebrew debar, which simply means to speak your heart.  But that’s not the same word David uses here.  He uses the word shapak, used to describe the pouring of water from a cup, the pouring of blood over the altar or the melting of wax to pour into a mould.  A possible translation then of Psalm 62:8 could be, “melt and pour out your heart to God.”  That puts a slightly different spin on it.

But it still doesn’t help us in our cold, indifferent state.  How do you melt a cold heart?  You ask God for help.  God is not unaware of our condition, for “he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).  He knows us.  He is aware.  And he cares and is willing to help.

So I ask God to soften my heart and quicken my spirit and create a hunger and thirst for him.  I plead earnestly for this, explaining to him that if he doesn’t, I will remain indifferent and cold and my prayers will be ineffective.  I continue to plead and entreat and beg God in this matter until he answers.  He always does.  He is a gracious and kind Saviour.  He always comes to the aid of those who call upon him, especially in cases such as this.  He will not leave us bereft and abandoned.  He will meet you in your cold-heartedness and bring refreshment to your soul.  Frosted hearts melt in His presence.  Trust him for it.

I’ll leave you with some words from Spurgeon, who puts it in a way that only Spurgeon can:

Ye people, pour out your heart before him. Ye to whom his love is revealed, reveal yourselves to him. His heart is set on you, lay bare your hearts to him. Turn the vessel of your soul upside down in his secret presence, and let your inmost thoughts, desires, sorrows, and sins be poured out like water. Hide nothing from him, for you can hide nothing. To the Lord unburden your soul; let him be your only father confessor, for he only can absolve you when he has heard your confession. To keep our griefs to ourselves is to hoard up wretchedness. The stream will swell and rage if you dam it up: give it a clear course, and it leaps along and creates no alarm. Sympathy we need, and if we unload our hearts at Jesus’ feet, we shall obtain a sympathy as practical as it is sincere, as consolatory as it is ennobling.

 God is a refuge for us. Whatever he may be to others, his own people have a peculiar heritage in him; for us he is undoubtedly a refuge: here then is the best of reasons for resorting to him whenever sorrows weigh upon our bosoms. Prayer is peculiarly the duty of those to whom the Lord has specially revealed himself as their defence.

Some other resources that might be of help to you:

 

No April Fool

This year April Fool’s Day falls on Easter, which is a rarity.  The last time that happened was 1956.  The reason is because Easter coincides with the Jewish Passover, which is always celebrated on the first full moon after the spring equinox, hence the clash.  As expected, there were plenty of Christianity-bashers out there making the most of it, posting scoffing remarks on social media about the ‘fools’ that actually believe in the resurrection.

Take this one for example from Atheist Revolution:

What does April Fool’s Day have to do with Christianity? Everything. This pseudo-holiday, recognized but not celebrated, is about gullibility. As gullibility is a vital friend to religion, it seems that Christians should recognize this as an important holiday. April Fools is about playing pranks, about telling lies, and about trying to convince someone that something is true when you know it isn’t. The parallels with Christianity are striking.

But are they, really?

In 2015, BMW put a front-page advertisement in the New Zealand Herald offering a new car to the first person who showed up on April 1 with their current vehicle and the coupon.  Now who would take that seriously?  One woman in Auckland did, turning up in her 15-year-old Nissan.  She was taken to the showroom and handed the keys of a brand spanking new Beamer with the number plate, “NoFooL.”

Now that has to be the ultimate in April-Fool’s reversal – right?  What most people thought was a cheap ruse was in fact, the real deal.  Well, the way I look at it, the resurrection of Jesus tops that.  The world threw everything they could at Jesus.  They tried him, beat him and put him on a cross, and then just to make sure he was good and truly dead, thrust a spear into his side.  Then they sealed his body in a tomb, with a very large stone.  They thought that was the end of it.  Three days later however, Jesus springs back to life.  Mary saw him, Peter and John saw him, as well as 500 of his followers.  Even ‘doubting Thomas’ couldn’t deny the facts when he saw with his own eyes the risen Christ and put his finger in the holes in his side.

The resurrection isn’t a trick or a ruse.  It’s the truth.  The facts are undeniable and the evidence irrefutable (find yourself a Bible and check it out yourself – it’s there for the world to see).  It’s not those who believe in the resurrection who are the fools, but the ones who don’t.  There’s coming a day however, when all will be brought to light; when we all, like Thomas, will see him with our own eyes, holes and all.

Guess who will be having the last laugh then?

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is Finished

Last words have always fascinated people, particularly from the lips of famous people.  Consider the last words from these individuals:

  • Frank Sinatra – “I’m losing it.”
  • Henry VIII – “All is lost”
  • Elizabeth I – “All my possessions for a moment of time.”
  • Princess Diana, after her car accident – “My God. What’s happened?”

Now compare these to the last words uttered by Jesus on the cross: “It is finished.”  They are strikingly different aren’t they?  These three words, which summarize the heart of the gospel, have brought hope and comfort to millions throughout the world. “At these words,” says F.W. Krummacher, “you hear fetters burst and prison walls falling down; barriers as high as heaven are overthrown, and gates which had been closed for thousands of years again move on their hinges.”

But what did Jesus mean by these words?  What exactly was finished?  To answer that, we need to revisit the crucifixion.

Revisiting Golgotha

Early Friday morning, a group of soldiers gathered at a place called Golgotha – the place of the skull.  It was on the north side of the city of Jerusalem, just outside the Damascus Gate.  After stripping Jesus naked, the soldiers laid the large upright beam of the cross on the ground and then placed him on it, and then drove large nails through his feet and wrists.  Above Jesus’ head they attached a sign: “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  This was Pilate’ doing.  It was his way of getting back at the Jewish Religious leaders for the way they manipulated him to hand Jesus over.

The cross, with Jesus on it was then lifted up in the air and dropped into a hole in the ground.  Jesus was now crucified.  For three hours he hung there, in agony; the open wounds on his back rubbing painfully on the rough wood as he moved up and down, gasping for air.  But that wasn’t the worst of it.  For during that time, Jesus was bearing our sin.  He was suffering in our place.  The full fury of a holy and righteous God was being hurled at his Son.  In the words of the Apostle Paul, “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

None of us could possibly imagine what Jesus was experiencing during this time.  None of us know what it is like to suffer the penalty of the sins of millions of people – sins of hate and greed, sins of anger and lust, sins of lying and cheating, sins of envy and pride – when you have never once committed any of them.  None of us know what it is like to have enjoyed perfect fellowship with the Father before time began, and then suddenly, in an instant, to have that fellowship broken and the One you love deeply and affectionately, turn his back on you.  This was the hell Jesus endured.

At exactly 12 noon, the sky went black – so black that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  For three hours darkness fell across the land.  Then, just as suddenly as it started, the darkness lifted, disappeared, vanished, and normality returned to the earth.  The soldiers who looked at Jesus on the cross would have noticed that his breathing was slowing and his movements less pronounced.  He was nearing the end.

Then suddenly, without warning, Jesus cried out with a loud voice – “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Someone in the crowed shouted back – “He’s calling for Elijah.”  Moments passed, death drew near, then a hoarse whisper, “I thirst.”  The soldiers put some sour vinegar on a sponge and lifted it to his lips with a stalk of hyssop.  He moistened his lips and took a deep breath.  Then he spoke again.  It was a quick shout.  If you weren’t paying attention, you would have missed it in all the confusion.  It was just one word in Greek. . . Tetelestai . . . “It is finished.”

Note that Jesus did not say, “I am finished.”  This is not the cry of a helpless martyr.  He said, “IT is finished.”  He was making a pronouncement – a declaration.  The work of redemption was complete.  Full atonement for sin had been made.  Our debt was paid and it was PAID IN FULL.  That means every sin a Christian has have ever done, is presently doing and will do in the future is fully covered, fully atoned for, and completely wiped out – on that blood-stained cross.

I love how Spurgeon puts it:

“The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once for all, and for ever, by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the tree. There was the cup, hell was in it, the Saviour drank it — not a sip and then a pause; not a draught and then a ceasing, but he drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of his people. The great ten-thonged whip of the law was worn out upon his back, there is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannonade of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition, there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God. Sheathed is thy sword, O Justice! Silenced is thy thunder, O Law! There remains nothing now of all the griefs, and pains, and agonies which chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for his own beloved, and “it is finished.”

I think of all the sins I have committed over my lifetime.  There are a fair number of them.  Every year, the list just keeps growing longer.  Before I even reached the age of twenty, I could no longer live with them.  God brought conviction to my heart and I was crushed under the weight of them.  Then came the gospel, the wonderful, life-changing, liberating news that I didn’t have suffer for those sins; someone has paid the debt for me.

  • My sins of lust – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of lying and deceiving – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of jealousy and envy – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of selfishness and pride – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of drunkenness and idolatry – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of pornography and immorality – PAID IN FULL

Do you have some sins you can add to that list?  I’m sure you do.  God must pronounce judgment of each one of them.  They cannot be excused.  They cannot be simply written off.  Either you pay for them – in hell, or Jesus pays for them on the cross.  But someone must pay.  I gratefully accepted Jesus payment.  So today I can say, “It is finished.  It is done.  My debt has been paid in full.”

If you are a believer in Christ who is troubled with doubt and despair, hear these words of Jesus:  “It is finished.”  Your sin has been paid for.  Your salvation is complete.  There is nothing left to do than receive the benefits of this work; to put your faith in the one who offered his life as a sacrifice for sin.

If you have not yet surrendered your life to Christ; if you don’t know what it is to have your sins forgiven and your conscience cleansed, your burdens lifted and your guilt taken away, why not surrender your life to him today?  He is there waiting for you, with open arms.  Believe in Him; trust in his atoning work on your behalf.

Then you too will be able to confidently say, “It is finished.  My debt is paid in full.”

Note: This post was based on a sermon I preached from the Gospel of John.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.

 

 

 

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (A Good Friday meditation)

Last Sunday we had a special communion service at our church as a lead up to Good Friday.  It was a beautiful time of reflection, quiet singing and meditation.  As part of the service I had one of our members (who has a lovely Irish accent) read out the words of Bernard of Clairvaux’s hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”  I thought it would serve as a fitting post for the lead up to Easter.

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, thine only crown:
How pale thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
Which once was bright as morn!

What thou, my Lord, has suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘Tis I deserve thy place;
Look on me with thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
To thank thee, dearest friend,
For this thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever;
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love for thee.

There is no language, no sentence, nor words that are sufficient to express my deep gratitude and love for this wonderful man, this beautiful man, this sinless man, who suffered for sinners gain – my gain.  The words resounded in my head (especially the last stanza), with the soft  melody of the piano, playing in the background.  People were moving around me, coming forward to the communion table to take of the bread and the cup.  But right then, at that moment, I was no longer the pastor overseeing the running of a service.  I was one of Christ’s sheep, for whom he died.  I was a sinner, in need of forgiveness, once again.  I was not only hearing these words; I was feeling them, and feeling them very deeply.

There are some beautiful renditions of this on YouTube.  Here’s one by Michael Card from his album “The Hidden Face of God.”  It is combined with various depictions of Jesus from Artists throughout the ages.  Pictures of Jesus might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the soundtrack of Michael Card is worth it in itself.

 

 

 

Bringing truth to life

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be transported back in time and see the characters of the bible come to life?  We got about as close as you can get with John Wason’s recent performance of “Loss to Redemption” from the book of Ruth.  We were transfixed.  It seems as if the very characters leapt off the page.

John leads a ministry called ‘Word to Life’, which I would sum up as ‘storytelling like you’ve never seen or heard it.’  John launched Word to Life in Tauranga back in 2004 while he was working here in New Zealand.  Word To Life is a development of John’s previous work, Out of Silence Mime Theatre, which began at Youth With A Mission’s (YWAM) Academy of Performing Arts in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, in 1994.

Since 2004 John has completely memorized[1] and dramatized entire books of the bible including Philippians, James, Jonah, Ruth, Galatians, Colossians and just recently, 2 Timothy.  He has also performed selected Psalms, “Encounters” – stories of lives impacted by Jesus, and “The Easter Report”, where a reporter interviews a number of people who witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus.

I asked John in an interview on Sunday morning to explain his ministry a little more to us and what drives him to do what he does.  This was his answer (paraphrased):

“I love theatre, I love drama and I love God’s Word.  When you put all that together this is what you get.  It is story telling with three simple components: purpose, passion and presence.  You often hear God’s Word taught with purpose.  If it’s a good sermon, it will also have passion.  But you don’t always get presence.  Presence is ‘being there’ in what you are communicating, making yourself transparent and revealing by way of body language, facial expression and gestures how the truth you are communicating has affected or is affecting you.  It’s making the truth live.”

I was all ears.  As a regular communicator of God’s Word, this was something I needed to hear.  Too often preachers become detached from their message, so the truth is merely abstract.  Abstract truth can’t be easily grasped by the average hearer.  Truth must be internalized – it must be felt.  It can’t simply stimulate the mind; it must reach the heart and warm the affections.

This is where story telling can become so effective.  By “story telling” I don’t mean telling lots of stories that are funny, appealing or emotive.  There’s too much of that going on from lazy preachers who can’t be bothered doing the hard yards to study the bible and dig for the Spirit-intended truth.  I mean teaching the bible in such a way that people see the truth come to life.

Story telling can be just as effective for adults as with children.  My wife Francelle heads up our children’s ministry in our church and has been putting story telling into practice with the kids.  Recently she had to give a talk at a retirement home.  She decided to put it into practice there to see how it went.  She taught from Mark chapter 5 on the healing of the woman who had suffered 12 years of bleeding.  But she told it as a story (because it IS a story), putting herself in the place of the woman, who desperately wants to be healed but is afraid of touching Jesus because he might become like her – unclean.  What she doesn’t realize is that nothing can make Jesus unclean, but everything he touches becomes instantly clean.  The response was immediate.  Instead of dozing, they were attentive, eyes wide open and as John Wason says, “leaning in.”

It should hardly surprise us that people respond well to stories.  This was how God’s truth was passed on from generation to generation with the people of Israel.  This was how Jesus communicated Kingdom truths to the masses.  And this is how many people today are drawn to know more about Christ.  They hear someone’s testimony; they hear a story.

If you want engagement with people when teaching God’s truth, utilize the power of story.

Here’s a short clip of John in action when he performed at our church one Sunday morning.  The scene is Boaz waking up to find Ruth lying at his feet.  Enjoy!  (footnote: John played 7 different characters from that one shawl.)

John and his wife Shelly continue as full-time staff with the international organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and live in Victoria, BC, Canada with their sons Timothy, Daniel, and Jeffrey.  We met up with them here in Nelson while they were on a recent tour to New Zealand.  John is planning to tour NZ again in 2020.  If you are interested in having him perform you can contact him at wasonworld@wasonworld.com

[1] John chose the NIV for memorization as it is one that is most well-known and also flows well when spoken orally.

Behold the Man!

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!) by Antonio Ciseri

Much focus is placed upon the crucifixion of Jesus at Easter, and so it should be.  But the steps leading up to the crucifixion, including his arrest and trial are just as moving.  It demonstrates the greatness of God’s love for sinners and the infinite lengths he has gone to redeem us.

Take the trial scenes alone.  There were six phases to the trial of Jesus leading to his crucifixion; three Jewish trials and then three Roman trials.

  1. It began with the trial before Annas, who tried unsuccessfully to get Jesus to incriminate Himself (John 18:12-14; 19-24).
  2. Jesus was then sent to Caiaphas, who brought false witnesses who contradicted one another (Matt. 26:57-68). The whole process was completely illegal, taking place in the middle of the night.  According to the laws of the Sanhedrin, any steps in criminal proceedings after sunset was expressly prohibited.  In desperation, Caiaphas intervened and got Jesus to state openly that He was the Christ, the Son of God, resulting in the Jewish leaders declaring Him guilty of blasphemy (Matt. 26:63-66).
  3. Then, at daybreak, in an effort to somehow legitimize the miscarriage of justice, there was the trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin. The witnesses against Him were known perjurers (Matt 26:59–60), were not sworn, and their evidence was not consistent.

Since the Jews did not have the right of capital punishment, they had to get the Roman authorities to convict Jesus on charges of insurrection.

  1. First was the trial before Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate demanded a formal accusation, which they brought under three counts: (a) He perverted the nation, (b) He forbade tribute to Caesar, and (c) He claimed to be their king (Luke 23:2). The first two unsubstantiated counts were dismissed by Pilate, but the third was so serious that he could not ignore it, since it was treason against Rome.  However, after questioning Jesus, he gets nowhere as he finds nothing that Jesus has done wrong (Luke 23:1-4)
  2. Pilate then sends Jesus to Herod the Tetrarch, who had authority over all Galilee and was in Jerusalem at the time (Luke 23:6-12). Jesus remained silent before Herod, who sent Him back to Pilate for the final verdict (John 18:38b-19:16).
  3. Although Pilate found Jesus to be innocent and tried to find a way to release Him (he pronounces Jesus innocent three on three separate occasions), he finally capitulated to the pressure of the Jewish mob and handed Jesus over to be crucified.

J Oswald Sanders, in his book The Incomparable Christ, writes,

“Never were legal proceedings more irregular or verdict more unjust than in the trial of Jesus. From arrest to crucifixion every principle of justice was violated, and provisions of both criminal and ecclesiastical law flouted.”

I don’t know if you have ever been falsely accused.  I have and it feels pretty rotten.  The urge to protest and scream, “This isn’t right or fair!” is very strong and difficult to control.  Yet Jesus remained perfectly calm; perfectly in control.  He had to, for this is what he came for.  He was the perfect, sinless substitute who alone was qualified to atone for our sin.  These trials proved it.

While preparing my message in John’s gospel, I came across this piece written by Robert E Speer.  It captures the perfect composure of the Son of God in the face of rejection, injustice and unbelief.

I found it deeply moving.

“He said but little, but He said enough, and no word of His ever bore testimony to the truth, or revealed more fully the majesty of His divine life than the uncomplaining patience and self-possession and composure of His conduct under the hideous treatment to which He was subjected; when after His condemnation before Caiaphas, the men who held Him, in pretence that He was a dangerous character spit in His face and mocked Him, and beat Him, and blindfolding Him, struck and reviled Him. “Prophesy unto us, Thou Christ: who is he that struck thee?”

When Herod with his soldiers set Him at nought and made sport of Him and sent Him back through the streets of the city arrayed in mock royal attire and became the friend of Pilate again through this sport—cursed be such friendships.

When in the hope, doubtless, of showing the people how harmless and inoffensive He was, Pilate had Him before the people with the jeering remark, ‘Behold the Man!’

When, after the surrender of Pilate, the whole band of the governor’s soldiers took Him, stripped, put on Him a scarlet robe, with a crown of acanthus thorns still piercing His brow and staining His face crimson like His robe, and giving Him a reed for a sceptre, played with Him as a mock king, spitting on Him and seizing His sceptre from His hand and smiting Him on the head with it, driving the thorn’s cruel spikes deeper into His brow; when at last they led Him away to Calvary, stripped of His robe, but still wearing His crown.

‘Behold the man!’ was Pilate’s jeer. That is what all the ages have been doing since, and the vision has grown more and more glorious. As they have looked, the crown of thorns has become a crown of golden radiance, and the cast-off robe has glistened like the garments He wore on the night of the Transfiguration. Martyrs have smiled in the flames at that vision, sinners have turned at it to a new life…. and towards it the souls of men yearn forever.”

Glory be to God.